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By David Harder on January, 20, 2018

The Five Steps All of Us Use to Kill Off Change

Business media sends out articles every single day about the acceleration of change, about changing technology impacting each and every one of us. But, little is said about how to change ourselves.


Learning how to change ourselves is one of the single most valuable of life experiences. For many, the learning process is uncomfortable and perhaps even frightening. However, when an individual clearly defines her or his unique purpose in life, when they design that work that is meaningful, many finally have to motivation to change. More pointedly, if work is “just a job,” why deal with any discomfort?


Early on, we identified a series of filters that humans use to block change. That reaction is typically about avoiding taking the very action that would make life better. And, the shoot-from-the-hip response to killing change is always within us. For 27 years, we have watched thousands of individuals change their professional lives for the better. Over time, it became clear that all of us have been trained or conditioned to use five filters to dismiss the very healthy commitment to change ourselves. On a camera or a pair of sunglasses, filters color one’s vision. If we are given a blue filter, over time, we would reach a state of swearing the entire world is blue. So, filters have nothing to do with the truth.


In our individual programs, we tell our participants, early on, about these filters because just being aware of them eliminates much of the conflict behind self-inquiry and change. Within our leadership programs, we prepare executives to better deal with the filters, because they can slow down or perhaps even kill a change initiative.


Spoiler alert, all of you will recognize them:



Cynicism is the single most popular and highly used filter in killing off change. It is a toxic spiritual state that usually arises from disappointment. The most cynical amongst us were not always like that. We are born with possibility and hope. But, often the process of taking action to pursue a possibility was met with failure and disappointment. When we encounter difficulties, cynicism is just another way to justify giving up.


A few examples include:


Why are we making all of these changes now? We don’t have the resources to do them.


Who makes a living doing that?


What makes you qualified to offer this advice?


Prove it.



Take cynicism. Distill it. Add a good dose of emotional violence.


Where cynicism often stems from disappointment, contempt is often rooted in damage.


Regardless of its origin, the purpose of contempt is to kill off the idea of change on-the-spot.


In our leadership programs, we find it is especially important to train executives in how to best respond to contempt. If it is coming from the employees, the proposed action is at risk and requires effective management of the challenge.



This is life without vision, mission, and purpose.


We clock in and we clock out. We settle into the trace of a routine. Without compelling mission, vision, and purpose, we are not invested enough to change. Often, individuals who spend a great deal of this time in this state only take action in the midst of a crisis. The solution to aimlessness is almost always creating investment, vision, purpose, interest.



Welcome to the “why bother” filter. I’m too old, too fat, too young, too gay, too uneducated, among others. This past year, the New York Times published a national survey they took with people who work. 48% percent characterized themselves as “underemployed.” That means that about half of our country is out of sync with change. In our programs, we find that showing people how to change, teaching them the skills that fuel self-change is critical in getting them out of this challenge.



This filter grew until it became a way-of-life during the last decade. So many of us are overloaded with information, commuting, getting the kids through school, getting them ready for college, dealing with continual demands from work, becoming bombarded with information, tasks, interruptions, and more.


We are becoming a nation that is so busy that it is time to ask the questions, to what end? About eight years ago, Stanford’s Behavioral Science Department released a study indicating that the average American doubles his or her quantity of knowledge every 4 1/2 years. I would dare say that since the study that figure has been cut in half. But, the study said little about the quality of information we are absorbing. Thankfully, sophisticated information filters will help us improve the quality of what we see.


Overall, the only way to get past frenzy is to take the time to define what we want to accomplish with our lives and our time. Often, that suggestion is greeted with cynicism and perhaps even contempt with the words, “I don’t have time.”


Well, time is precious.


How do we move past the filters?

Recognize them. Point them out. Understand how they are used.


Within a team, point the filter out with understanding and compassion. Often, the challenge is coming from fear. Let’s do our best to help them move forward.


Cynicism, Contempt, Aimlessness, Resignation, and Frenzy require inattention to thrive.


We don’t want to waste this precious life on that, do we?


Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work, Inc.

(C) Copyright, 2018, Inspired Work, Inc. – (All Rights Reserved)

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